Sometimes, one man can make a different. Sometimes, if rarely, you can fight city hall - or in this case, the entire Federal Government. For Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon policy analyst and member of the influential Rand Corporation think tank, the war in Vietnam was a necessity…at least, at first. As he poured over briefing papers and military projections, he saw the conflict as a clash between self-determination, the domino theory, and a long standing unrest in the area. From his time in the Marines to his work with Lyndon Johnson’s Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, he believed in the strength of the US position. But after a fact finding tour of the troubled nation and a thorough reading of the 7000 page report commissioned on the war, Ellsberg had a change of heart. Radicalized, he knew he had to do something. That “something” would soon change the course of modern American history.
Thus began the cynicism and suspect nature of the political process that is rampant in today’s hyper-partisan environment. Ellsberg’s eventual leaking of the so-called “Pentagon Papers” so pissed off the Nixon White House that he became the target of the administration’s infamous “dirty tricks”. Eventually, a break-in at Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office would be tied to Watergate, the President’s closest advisors, and the Commander in Chief himself. For anyone who grew up in the turbulent and troubled years between 1967 and 1975, Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers, and the eventual resignation of Richard Nixon would come to define the generation. While his noble intentions helped to shine a much needed light on the misdeeds of a nation, Ellsberg more or less lived up to his nickname - The Most Dangerous Man in America. As we see in the amazing documentary by Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, the legacy he left behind is more troubling than the actions he took in defense of his beliefs.